Racial Discrimination

Believers in American Exceptionalism More Likely to Support Torture

We have written about the ways that Tea Party candidates, Religious Right leaders like David Barton, and pundits like Glenn Beck have been promoting the idea of a divinely-inspired American Exceptionalism, and attacking President Obama for being an enemy of exceptionalism who is out to destroy it. 

A new survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute makes it clear that there’s fertile ground for politically exploiting this concept, especially among Republican voters. When voters were asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement that “God has granted America a special role in human history,” 58 percent of Americans agree. Not surprisingly, white evangelicals agreed overwhelmingly – 83 percent – along with 76 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party movement and 75 percent of Republicans. Among Democrats, about half – 49 percent – agree. More than two thirds of Americans with no religious affiliation reject the idea that God has given the US a special role in history.
 
Perhaps more interesting is the survey’s findings that white Americans who affirm this notion of divinely inspired American exceptionalism are much more likely to favor military strength over diplomacy as the best way to preserve peace than those who reject exceptionalism, and significantly more likely to believe that torture can be justified. Americans are about evenly split on the question of whether torture can ever be justified against suspected terrorists, but only about a third of Republicans and those identifying with the Tea Party agree that torture can never be justified. Fifty-five percent of those who believe in a divine role for the US believe torture can sometimes be justified; only 42 percent of those who reject that role are willing to accept torture under some circumstances.
 
It’s worth noting that half of white evangelicals believe that torture can never be justified, making this one among several issues in which Tea Party supporters are to the right of other Christian conservatives even though there is major overlap between the two groups. E.J. Dionne and William Galston of the Brookings Institution, in a paper commenting on the survey findings, note that “While white Christian conservatives and Tea Party supporters are in broad agreement on many issues, there is a harder edge to Tea Party views on immigration, multiculturalism, and Islam.”
 
Those differences could contribute to the ongoing public struggles to define what the 2010 election meant and what kinds of issues should be considered part of the Tea Party agenda. The crucial role played by Latino voters in Democratic Senate victories in Nevada, California, and Colorado also point to ways in which the Tea Party movement’s hard-edge positions on immigration and Islam, and its lack of concern about racial discrimination, could interfere with efforts by some GOP and Religious Right leaders to broaden the demographic base of the Republican Party. 

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Memories

Back in 2005, it was reported that Tony Perkins, now President of the Family Research Council, "paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana."

Shortly thereafter, FRC released a statement refuting the assertion:

Tony Perkins was the manager of the 1996 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Woody Jenkins in Louisiana where Impact Media was contracted to make pre-recorded telephone calls for the campaign. In 1999, an unrelated federal investigation uncovered that David Duke had a financial interest in the company, which he did not report to the IRS, resulting in his conviction on federal tax evasion charges. This connection was not known to Mr. Perkins until 1999. Mr. Perkins profoundly opposes the racial views of Mr. Duke and was profoundly grieved to learn that Duke was a party to the company that had done work for the 1996 campaign.

A year later, it was reported that on two occasions, Perkins had addressed the racist Council of Conservative Citizens:

The Boston Herald reported in an October 16, 2006, article, "In 2001, [Perkins] gave a speech at a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] considers a hate group." Indeed, a Fall 2004 article in the SPLC's Intelligence Report asserted that Perkins "spoke to the Louisiana Council of Conservative Citizens on May 19, 2001," during his tenure as a Louisiana state legislator. The SPLC characterizes the CCC as a "white nationalist" organization, and has reported that the group is "the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s." The CCC declares in its statement of principles:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.

In a July 30, 2005, article, The Vancouver Sun reported that Perkins acknowledged his speech before the CCC in an interview. The Sun also reported that Perkins claimed he could not recall what he said to the group and that he said he had been unfamiliar with the CCC's history at the time. From the Sun article:

The magazine [The Nation] also reported that Perkins, while a Louisiana state congressman, spoke in 2001 to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).

Perkins said he was invited by a constituent to speak to the group, and said he wasn't aware of its history.

"Never spoke to them again. That was over a decade ago," Perkins told The Sun, suggesting the speech happened in 1996, not 2001.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which keeps track of politicians close to the CCC, forwarded The Sun a March-April 2001 copy of Citizens Informer, the newsletter put out by the CCC, which included the following notice:

"The Louisiana CofCC met at the Mandarin Seafood in Baton Rouge May 19 to hear State Representative Tony Perkins discuss the current legislative session. At that meeting a recruitment project was developed."

When informed of the item by The Sun, FRC spokesman J.P. Duffy does not dispute the assertion that the event happened in 2001, not 1996, but added that Perkins "cannot remember speaking at the event, as he speaks to hundreds of groups each year." Duffy added that Perkins opposes racial discrimination and offered the names and phone numbers of two black pastors who support him.

Since Perkins claims that he "cannot remember speaking at the event," maybe this photo that recently surfaced online will help to jog his memory:

Playing the 'Race Card' Card Against Obama

Edward Blum has long been a vocal opponent of affirmative action, having worked for anti-affirmative action groups such as the Center for Equal Opportunity, the American Civil Rights Institute, and his own Campaign for a Color-Blind America (now vanished). In recent years, however, Blum has expanded his purview to another area involving opportunities for minorities: the basic right to vote.

Taking Lead from Religious Right, Justice Dept. Civil Rights Focused on Religion, Not Race

In February, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unveiled what he called the First Freedom Project, to expand on the Justice Department’s “extensive record of achievement” in the area of “religious freedom laws.” Gonzales described the department’s work on religion as “a legacy of protection unequaled since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Even more remarkable than that startling comparison, however, was Gonzales’s choice of venue: a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. According to the Baptist Press, Gonzales requested to speak at the meeting “because he knew he would be speaking to a receptive audience.” Indeed, the famously right-wing SBC has been a strong supporter of the Bush administration, including its judicial nominees.

The Religious Right saw the Justice Department’s new focus as a validation of its world-view of Christians being persecuted in the U.S.: “The fact that the Justice Department finds it necessary to launch such a project further confirms what we’ve been aware of for years: our nation’s First Liberty--religious freedom--is in serious danger because of decades of sustained attacks by the ACLU and its allies,” said Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund.

Now the New York Times is reporting that the department’s emphasis on religious liberty is part of its controversial reorganization under the Bush Administration that has led to a diminished role for traditional civil rights enforcement based on racial discrimination and voter suppression, and a more ideological and politicized staff, such as Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson’s law school.

The shift at the Justice Department has significantly altered the government’s civil rights mission, said Brian K. Landsberg, a law professor at the University of the Pacific and a former Justice Department lawyer under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“Not until recently has anyone in the department considered religious discrimination such a high priority,” Professor Landsberg said. “No one had ever considered it to be of the same magnitude as race or national origin.” …

Some critics say that many of the Justice Department’s religious-oriented initiatives are outside its mandate from Congress. While statutes prohibit religious discrimination in areas like employment and housing, no laws address some of the issues in which the department has become involved. … The department has … challenged so-called Blaine amendments, which are state constitutional provisions enforcing separation of church and state more rigidly than does the United States Constitution. The federal government sued because the amendments could impede Mr. Bush’s religion-based initiative, which provides money to religious groups for social programs.

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